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Loving Summer by Carole Brungar

Loving Summer is the fourth novel in the ‘Return to Nam’ series centred around the conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s, but you don’t need to read the other books to enjoy this novel.

Corporal Scott Taylor is on a tour of duty in Vietnam when he receives a card from a stranger that will change his life forever. A school in NZ has asked students to write cards to the soldiers, and the card addressed to him is from Summer Bryant.

Summer has been brought up by her parents to be a hippie and to appreciate the freedom of a transient life and living in different communes. She’s against the war in Vietnam, but somehow Scott and Summer discover they have a connection, and they end up being regular pen-pals, each of them sharing the ups and downs of their lives with each other. Scott is worried that his marriage is in trouble, which seems to be justified when he finally comes home to a frosty reception. Summer falls in love with a young man, but then tragedy strikes, and she has to learn to rebuild her life over.

This is historical fiction that is very well done, as the story alternates between Scott and Summer points of view. It’s undoubtedly a romance novel, but the two main protagonists don’t meet in person until much later in the story. There is a twist at the end that I can’t mention without it being a spoiler – but I can say that the plot moves from the conflict in Vietnam to a much more personal battle at home in New Zealand.

Loving Summer is a page-turning read, with a compelling love story at its core. I think it’s Carole Brungar’s best book to date!

Reviewer: Karen McMillan